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Highway Danger: Congress Asleep at the Wheel Along with Truck Drivers


We have all had that experience of driving on the interstate and seeing a tractor-trailer truck barreling down the road behind us. It is scary. And when you begin to look at the trucking industry’s influence with our elected officials it gets scarier. The trucking associations combined spend about $20 million every year influencing Congress. The various groups, including the most prominent, CERT (the Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking), are working to increase “efficiency” and profit for the trucking industry. Efficiency, as the trucking industry sees it, is measured by increasing the number of hours on the road, the size of rigs, and the increased weights.  There is very little conversation among the industry focused on safety—of their drivers or the other motorists on the road with their tractor trailers.

In 2013 there were 3,541 truck crashes leading to the deaths of 3,964 people. The number of deaths by tractor trailer-related accidents rose 17% during the 4-year period from 2009 to 2013. The numbers of fatalities decreased in 2014, but overall crashes and injuries increased. And they will likely continue to do so if the trucking lobby is successful in pushing back safety regulations in the name of “efficiency”.

As our budget legislation has become more contentious, the trucking industry has been able to get amendments quietly slipped into massive pieces of legislation, virtually hidden from the public eye. For example, a bill to undo sleeping regulations (i.e., how much sleep commercial truck drivers are required to have before driving) was quietly slipped into the 2016 spending bill and passed without full examination or discussion.

The trucking industry is pushing for changes that a majority of Americans disagree with, according to a survey conducted by Huffington Post and YouGov. The ‘disagree’ answers range from 57% to 71% of respondents in opposition to these proposals:

  • Lowering the age limit for tractor trailer drivers to age 18.
  • Raising the weight limit to more 90,000 pounds (gross weight).
  • Allowing tractor trailers to be up to 80 feet long (increasing the size of individual trailers from 28 feet each to 33 feet).
  • Allowing truck drivers to work up to 82 hours a week, an increase from the current 70 hours limit.

HuffingtonPost.com  When truckers are paid by the load or by the mile, the incentive for them is to get a load delivered as quickly as possible in order to get to the next paying job. It is tempting to put in long grueling hours, which results in sleep-deprived drivers. Some of the most notable accidents in the transportation industry in recent years have been attributed to truck drivers falling asleep behind the wheel.  There is evidence, and yet there are Senators who seem willing to ignore the safety of American citizens in order to support the trucking industry. Money greases the wheels of Congress, so to speak.

Other significant issues that the industry is fighting against include federal motor safety ratings, studies linking sleep apnea with increased rates of crashes, and raising insurance requirements for trucking companies (currently capped at $750,000).

Michael McAuliff, a Senior Congressional reporter for Huffington Post sums it up nicely, “…lawmakers tend to listen to industry groups, which warn of job losses and higher costs if their demands aren’t met. These conversations happen inside the cloister of legislative process, shielded from scrutiny. If what business wants doesn’t put health or safety first  — and it often doesn’t — politicians try to meet the demand by adding provisions to much larger legislative vehicles, where they may be impossible to dislodge, if they are even discovered at all.”   HuffingtonPost.com  

If these new regulations are enacted, then the motoring public can expect more tractor trailer crashes on our highways.  Drivers will be sleepier and their rigs will be heavier and longer, among other issues.  These are not changes that promote public safety, but instead promote trucking profits.  If you want to be heard on this critical issue, contact your congressional representative and United States Senators.



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  1. Ron Melancon says:
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    Asleep is not the only thing the idiots in Washington DC go to dangeroustrailers.org

  2. Doug says:
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    They need to quit telling drivers they cannot take a break until they work there 14 hours the company’s just pushed the drivers if you’ve noticed the increase in truck accidents have happened in the last four years as they keep messing with the hours of service it should be back to the way it used to be when a driver could use his own judgment

  3. Elizabeth says:
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    I agree with you Doug. First of all, because a person is not driving does not mean they are sleeping. Drivers should be allowed to use common sense and the ones who don’t should be severely punished but the whole industry should not be punished because of a few greedy, irresponsible companies who push their drivers or drivers who don’t use good judgement. I am an owner operator and I make my own schedule with my customers. When sleepy jumps on me I am off the next exit whether I have driven one hour or ten. I will get there when I get there and no one complains. Better safe than sorry.

  4. Kim says:
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    For some reason people who are not in this business think that we want to work sleep deprived. Nobody mentions dispatchers, companies, brokers, shippers or receivers with their needs that have to be met RIGHT NOW without any consideration to the driver or the laws. Rates have dropped causing people to work harder for their money with cost of living constantly increasing. When a non truck driver works 2 jobs-40 hours at one and 20 hours or more at another thats okay if they are swirving after work or falling asleep. Another matter not addressed is 4 wheelers (cars) who text, read books, put on make up, watch movies all while driving and are in a rush and drive safely around trucks. I wish this industry would address the real issues. Its all about money to these folks